Mobile phones could soon be turned into hand gesture recognition devices following a technological breakthrough.
Software developed by researchers at the University of Warwick would allow the 2D cameras in everyday consumer electronic products, such as mobile phones and tablet computers, to become hand gesture recognition (HGR) devices in uncontrolled environments with both natural and artificial light. A patent application has been filed to PCT (International) Stage.
Since the early 1990s HGR has been intensively researched in both academic and industrial communities, but until now there have been no successful academic theories or commercial products that have performed robust HGR in uncontrolled environments.
Existing HGR technologies require infrared or 3D cameras and will only work in artificial light and have been limited to the gaming industry and smart TVs. The new technology, which can also recognise both gesture and posture, is more economical, practical to use and opens up the possibilities of HGR being used in the automotive, health and consumer electronics sectors.
Co-inventor Yi Yao argues that “surgeons, who currently cannot use traditional computers in operating rooms, could search hands-free for data or switch between appliances and similarly, whilst cooking in the kitchen, we could instruct our mobile phones to take a call on speaker or switch to music or video”.
Discussing the technological advance made by the technology Professor Chang-Tsun Li from the Department of Computer Science and its co-inventor said that the “research is a highly significant breakthrough when compared to the existing technology that can only function in isolated and non-real life environments”.
“Along with the ability to continue working when other people are moving in the background, adapt to changing lighting conditions and to cope when the hand temporarily moves out of sight, our research not only goes beyond existing HGR technology, but it also makes it practical and easily available for consumers” said Professor Li.
Analysts at Markets and Markets predict that the global gesture recognition market is due to grow from $0.3bn last year to an $11.03bn industry by the end of 2020. Dr Shum Prakash, Business Development Manager at Warwick Ventures said “for the gesture recognition sector to grow, it needs new, innovative products that address the problems with existing technology and can be easily applied in people’s day-to-day lives. By being able to be used on the devices we already own, this new technology solves both of these problems and could lead to HGR technology becoming an integral part of the automotive, health and consumer electronic sectors”.
The inventors argue that the new technology could potentially have a wide-range of real-world uses. “Consumers are already aware of existing HGR technology being used, and not always working, with gaming consoles and smart TV. Whilst it will be able to overcome the problems currently faced by users, our new technology could be used in sectors and fields in need of new possibilities”, argues Mr Yao.